Indonesia’s army has stopped imposing so-called “virginity tests” on female recruits, its chief said Thursday, following calls from rights groups to ban the invasive vaginal exams.
The military had long defended the unscientific “two-finger test” to check if a cadet’s hymen was intact as a way to weed out recruits whose past sexual behaviour, they said, would damage its image.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) welcomed the news – calling the tests “discriminatory and intrusive” – but cautioned they needed evidence the practice had ended.
Army chief of staff Andika Perkasa said Thursday that the tests, which had been standard practice for decades, had been abolished earlier this year but did not specify a date.
“Previously, it was part of the assessment (for female recruits), but now we are no longer doing it,” he told reporters in Balikpapan on Indonesia’s section of Borneo island.
“The army always tries to learn and improve things within the organisation,” he added.
The practice of subjecting the fiances of servicemen to such exams had also been ditched, the army’s commander said.
Indonesia’s Komnas Perempuan urged the army to put the pledge into written regulations, and for the air force and navy to do the same.
“We need certainty that the ‘virginity test’ has been ended,” commission head Theresia Iswarini told AFP on Thursday before Perkasa’s announcement.
“This test is discriminatory and intrusive. It can bring shame, fear and trauma for victims.”
Human Rights Watch, which has labelled the practice a “form of gender-based violence”, welcomed the news.
The World Health Organization has said the procedure lacks scientific validity and was not a reliable indicator of prior sexual intercourse.
A petition to end the practice on Change.org, which has nearly 70,000 signatures, said the procedure was “painful, humiliating, and lacks the support of scientific evidence”.